Mackay

Wednesday shortly after midnight my train arrived with 30 minutes delay. I’m no longer surprised. I haven’t seen any train to be on time. And as there’s only one train travelling north of Rockhampton, that’s the only option. Additionally, this train only operates for 5 days in a week. Hence, one has to make sure, that the travelling happens at the right day. At least the waiting room was open the whole evening. It had TV, but also freezing cold AC. Hence, after a while a sat again outside, and attracted all the mosquitoes. The diesel powered train (yes electrification ends in Rockhampton) is pretty modern. There’s definitely a lot of space for long legs, but the footrest is designed in such a bad way, that I always hit my shin on it’s sharp edges. Additionally, each seat has it’s own small screen, where you can opt for your own entertainment, similar to airplanes. But as it was in the middle in the night, I tried to catch some sleep. I got a new, small blanket, which helped only marginally against the freezing cold air conditioning, and getting out wasn’t an option now πŸ˜…. Additionally, the bogie of my carriage was worn out. It went easily into it’s natural frequency at the driving speed (which means the damping went to almost zero). Hence, it caused a terrible vibrating noise, which made it hard to get some sleep all together. After about 4 hours I arrived in Mackay early in the morning. I needed to wait some time until Heather picked me up from the railway station. I stayed at the house of Heather & Garry, which I met in the train ride from Adelaide to Sydney in the Indian Pacific back in November. They’re very welcoming, and Heather gave me some very good local recommendations what to do, as both were very busy during my stay.

So I took the bus to Shoal point. Actually this bus stopped about 2 km before it, so I walked along the beach to Shoal point. The beach is pretty shallow, not really for swimming, but rather than for relaxing for some minutes in the shade under a palm tree. As the bus operates only every two hours (yes it’s inconvenient, so not surprising that almost nobody uses it), I needed to make sure that I’m back on the road. Luckily the next bus was operating all the way up, so I could easily catch it. Then I asked the bus driver to a direct connection of the bus to Eimeo, which worked out pretty well. Otherwise I would have to wait for another 2 hours, are walk for additional 3 km. Both not really an option. The beach in Eimeo was quite nice, had a lot of shade and it was high tide…but I forget my swimsuit in the morning, as I was in a rush to get the bus. Hence, I just relaxed for a bit, until I walked back to the bus stop. There was no shops at both sides, and I hadn’t too much supplies with me. Hence, I was pretty starving, once I returned to the town and went to a supermaket 🀣.

Denison street

Finally my train arrives in the middle of the night…it’s interesting that Australian trains have four lights.
Riding along Denison street like a tram past the Irish pub
Having some rest at the beach of Shoal point…
…as well as at Eimeo, which was not very populated during the week
My train ticket

Cooberrie Park / Yeppoon

Monday morning I wanted to rent a scooter in order to drive to Cooberrie park, which is about 50 km away from Rockhampton. But first the scooter was pretty expensive with 65$ a day, and also I couldn’t take a second person on the back seat, as Hannah another traveller from the Netherlands wanted to join me. In the end we found a cheap car from a local rental service for just 57$ a day. Even as we used more fuel, it was cheaper, as we could split the cost. So in the end at noon we finally arrived at Cooberie park, which is a wildlife sanctuary for injured animals. The goal is to release the animals back into the wild, if it’s possible. Sometimes the animals will not be in a position to get released, or it’s just forbidden by law. Some animals kept illegal in captivity and are not endemic to Australia, so these will never be released back into the wild. We stayed for about 2 hours in the park, and even enjoyed a short show. In that show we got different animals presented, and had also the possibility to hold them or stroke them. In the afternoon we went to the southern part of the Byfield national park, which required a drive along a bad gravel road for a few kilometres. The last few hundred we walked to the Big Dune and the beach. Actually the beach is very shallow, and not very appealing. So we just put our feet into the water before we headed back. After short stops in Yeppoon at various beaches, unfortunately it was low tide, and all the water was muddy, we headed on to Emu park. The weather went a bit bad, and some showers came by. So during dusk we drove back to Rockhampton, for half way along the old railway tracks, which once connected Yeppoon and Emu Park with North Rockhampton. But unfortunately, these are no longer available for public transport.

This bloke comes originally from South-America
If you grab them at the tail, they’ll loose it, and it takes up to five years until a new, but smaller one, will grow
Several Emu’s are running around the area
I like how the bloke in the back is relaxing…but all the wallabies are chasing you for food.
Koalas are similar to Panda bears, they’re very picky which leaves they eat, and then sleeping for about 22 hours to digest them.
Several birds were on display
It’s still a bit weird to hold a snake, even if I know that python is not venomous
Thorny lizard from the NT
Wonderful peacock demonstrating it’s (assumed) size
Cassowary, the deadliest bird on earth. This species killed more people, than all other birds together.
View to the Keppel Islands from Emu Park (no, there only Emu’s made from iron on displayπŸ˜‰)

Town Tour Rockhampton

Sunday afternoon I started a walk around the town centre of Rockhampton. First I went to the nearby Kershaw Gardens, which is a small green retreat in the town. The only attraction seemed to be the small artificial and muddy cascade waterfall. Further on I walked along the Fitzroy river (no, it’s not the same as in WA) and crossed it via the Alexandra railway bridge. On the southern side of the Fitzroy river, which had a lot of debris flowing to the ocean, I went to the former Archer Park railway station. This nice wodden building hosts nowadays the local railway museum. Parallel to that old railway station are still the railway tracks which lead north, but interestingly they are still laid like tramways along Denison street. So each heavy cargo train, and all the passenger trains, need to ride along Denison road like a tramway in low speed. Not sure, why they never had fixed that in the last century, after closing down the steam railway. Along Quay street, which is obviously direct at the riverbank, a lot of old but renovated buildings exist. This area of Rockhampton looks pretty appealing nowadays, at least during the day, no idea how it turns, when it’s getting dark. When I returned to the northern side, I came across an old building, which hosts nowadays the local historical society. An old bloke gave me a short introduction to the history of the town and the building itself. It was the former council building of North Rockhampton until it got flooded in 1918, as it was build on the lowest point of the northern city (well, very smart I guess). And after that incident, North Rockhampton joined the council of Rockhampton.

Cascades in Kershaw park
Cargo train crossing the Alexandra bridge, which had even a double track back in the days.
The Fitzroy river is covered with debris, probably due to the rain the days before
The former Archer Park railway station
About 2km of the long-distance “North Coast Line” is still a tramway along Denison street
Beside the post office…
…there’re other old buildings along Quay street

While I was enjoying a cappuccino in a coffee shop (which was actually not very nice, as the top was covered in cacao powder…did I order a coffee or not, and you distribute it everywhere, when you try to drink it) anyway, I grabbed a newspaper and was reading some articles in it. But the more I read, the more I started questioning the content. After a while, and a short search, I realised that this was a “News Corp” paper, you know the company from Murdoch. I’ve never got such a biased form of information. But the absolute top of it, was the commentary page:

Very polemic point of view

There the blokes are fantasise about HELE (high-efficiency low-emission) coal fired power plants, and “cheap” nuclear power. I was definitely speechless while reading this. What are you talking about? high-efficiency low-emission…from which miracle are you dreaming. Even, if you would have a conversion efficiency of 100%, your coal fired power plant would still emit fossil CO2 emissions! But everybody knows, that the theoretical value of the Joule-Brayton cycle is limited by the Carnot efficiency, which is only based on the upper and lower temperature ratio. But even then, the real efficiency of a coal fired power plant is below that, due to all the losses in each single component, and far higher of even a natural gas fired single cycle gas turbine, because their turbine inlet temperature is higher than the one of the first stage steam turbine. The only option is to operate on a inlet pressure higher than the critical, this gives you a few points in efficiency, but that’s it. If you still need to operate on fossil fuel, built a combined cycle plant, like the one in Irsching, which has already demonstrated a net efficiency of more than 60%, but well yes you can’t use your dirty cheap coal of central Queensland for it.

After several months of drought, there’s now finally a bit of rain in South-East QLD and NSW. But hey, Australia is slightly bigger than that:

The area which covers south and central Europe has one of the world’s best solar potential…and no, it’s not raining there at all, nor are there Bush fires…just that you know

But anyway, no one would install a solar farm in the areas mentioned above. Instead all large scale solar farms of Australia, with a power of 50MW and more, are installed in arid areas anyway. These areas have a large annual solar irradiation and a low annual rainfall, nearly perfect conditions to provide cheap renewable energy.

It’s definitely said that people get all these biased information in a newspaper, which is definitely influenced by the mining&coal industry/lobby, but are resistant against scientific evidence! And the members of parliament from these rural areas just repeat the same shit again, as they’re worried by any change in policy, which could cost some local jobs in the coal industry, and eventually their bloddy own seat in the Parliament. If you don’t dig into the details and ask questions, you never get the context, why something is happening…

Rockhampton

Saturday morning Aileen, Clarke and I went to the Round Hill Lookout after a short walk around the Happy Valley lakes, which were used as water supplies for Gladstone back in the days. You get a complete overview, and a 360Β° view from the top top Gladstone. It started in the south with the large smelter, where the Aluminium power is melted in an electrochemical process into Alumium bars, which are processed further elsewhere. Then we saw again the QAL aluminium refinery, followed by the coal harbour and the LNG export terminal on Curtis island. Further on, the ammonia storgae for the fertiliser plant, as well as the cement factory to the north. Then at last the NRG coal fired power station, and last but not least the small aluminium refinery in the west. In the afternoon we went again to Clarkes pub for some drinks, and I met some of his mates, which came all together to have a drink at a nice Saturday afternoon. One of his mates has had German ancestors from the Niederrhein, and he explained me that this might be quite common in Australia. In the late afternoon Aileen and Clarke dropped me off at the railway station. It was already announced that the train was delayed for 45min, but in the end it turned up 95 min later! Once I was in the train the conductor asked me for my ticket, and I asked him if there is any compensation. In a very rude way he said no, and I asked why not. Then he got upset (well I was already before), which compensation I want at all, and the train is “only” 1 hour 20 min delayed (well, even that would be 80 min). In Germany there’s a compensation of 50% of your ticket price, if the train is delayed by more than 2 hours, here the train company just takes your money. And instead of accusing for the delay, that bloke said, he’s not from the train company 🀨 and only the person who brings me from A to B (and actually this isn’t true, as he’s not the driver). But seriously?!? You’re wearing a uniform where it’s written that you’re representing the train company, and now you tell me that you’re responsible for nothing. I’m your customer, but probably that doesn’t matter, as long as the company is state owned. So with 95 min delay I finally arrived Rockhampton in the evening.

A couple of parrots enjoying their lunch in the backyard
The large aluminium smelter on an island south of Gladstone
The Ugly aluminium refinery
LNG export terminal in the back on Curtis island, and coal exporting wharf infront of it
Ammonia storage to the right in the back, next to the cement factory; NRG power plant in the middle; and the small aluminium refinery to the left in the back
Aileen, Clarke and me on their balcony
Passing the pub a bit outside the town centre, I’ve been to a few hours ago
My train ticket

Town Tour Gladstone

Friday late morning Aileen gave me an introduction to Gladstone. She’s already living in town since 46 years, but is still not accounted as local πŸ˜‰. Aileen introduced me to the Good (Botanic Gardens), the Bad (Coal & LNG harbour) and the Ugly (Aluminium refinery – QAL) πŸ˜†. So we went first to the Ugly, the largest Aluminium refinery in Australia, which processes bauxite, which arrives as orange ore from Northern Queensland by barge, into fine Aluminium powder. Hence, the whole place is covered in orange dust. It operates since almost 60 years, and replaced the old meat works at the same place. Then we drove through the town centre, with all the small businesses and old pubs, yes there’re quite some pubs with much more gambling possibilities. Then we stopped at a lookout to get a view across the Bad…the harbour with all the coal loading facilities. We got also a glimpse over to Curtis island, it’s a pretty large island, but since five years it’s mainly known for it’s large LNG export terminal. From the three operating plants the LNG is exported mainly to South Korea and Malaysia. During the 4 years of construction, a lot of construction workers came from all over Australia. Real estate prices just increased dramatically, as everybody wanted to participate during this boom, and the population of Gladstone just increased by a fair amount. But in essence, most of the LNG plants was prefabricated in Taiwan and brought over by ship, and then just connected here. Which meant, it was much faster completed as some of the people hoped, and needed by far less local labour than expected, which is reasonable at the labour costs in Australia. The companies even want to export more LNG, but they can’t get enough to do so. And even the harbour turned out to be to narrow. The waves which are caused by an LNG tanker are pushing the coal ships too hard to the jetty. Hence, now discussions arousing a discussion to further extending and deepening the harbour. After all the industrial and especially economic back bone of Gladstone, we went on to the Good, the nice botanical gardens. We enjoyed a cappuccino each at the cafe near the pond and watched out to be not attacked by the birds. In the evening I went with Clarke to his pub. This pub was only populated by locals, who want to have some drinks after their working week in one of the heavy metal industries. He introduced me to some of his mates, and we had a couple of beers while listening to the music. It was pretty interesting to see this, and not only the “backpackers” having party at one of the beaches along the East Coast.

The Ugly…
…the largest Aluminium refinery in Queensland…
…processes bauxite into Aluminium powder
The Bad…Black coal, the million year old swamp, is simultaneously loaded onto several ships to be exported into the world…as the cheapest and dirtiest energy carrier at all. But it’s all about “jobs, jobs, jobs”
Crops and fuel are also traded next to the coal
The flying ship in the harbour πŸ˜‰